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SNEAK PEEK: The Sequel

“IXI: Capture the Crown”


Bryan L. Johnson & Paul A. Johnson














Her eyes opened slowly as the morning sun peeked through the blackout blinds, Its rays cutting the darkness in the room. The tart aftertaste of pinot grigio on her lips and the faint smell of bodily fluids that lingered in the air told the tale of last night’s festivities. Her head swooned slightly as she sat up then swung her smooth legs off the side of the bed, stepped into a slinky black G-String ,and quickly wiggled it past her shapely hips. A razor blade rested on the nightstand next to four powdery white tally marks and a smart phone. Cocaine had never been her thing but last night, it was a necessary tool. She grabbed the phone from the nightstand, retrieved her purse from the floor, then padded, catlike, to the bathroom.


She eased the door closed with a barely audible click, then sat the designer purse on the toilet, searched inside and fingered the small note. She unfolded it, squinted at the series of letters, numbers, and symbols, then typed the first set into the phone, bypassing the initial security setting. Her fingers quickly found the Internet browser, she entered the desired URL, then clicked DOWNLOAD. She then sat the phone on the back of the toilet as the download bar crept across the screen, then she reached back into her purse, grabbed the small black trash bag and returned to the bedroom.


Her pulse quickened as she picked up the pace, wiping the ruffie remnants off of the nightstand into the trash bag, then grabbed her wine glass off the coffee table and skipped to the bathroom to empty the last of her drink into the sink.  She placed the empty glass into the bag then pulled two paper towels from the holder and wiped down the sink, faucet, and toilet.


DOWNLOAD COMPLETE flashed on the illuminated screen so she lifted the phone, read the numbers on the note, then dialed #900900900#.  Her purse vibrated so she reached in, fished out her own phone, touched the CONFIRM button on the screen, then selected, START COLLECTING. A smile crept across her face revealing pearly-white teeth behind her perfect lips.  It was working.


She swiftly snatched her little black cocktail dress off the bathroom floor and shimmied into it in seconds. Her eyes searched for her strappy, black heels, which she found quickly then grabbed them along with the trash bag and her purse. She placed the phone back on the nightstand, then slipped her jacket over her arm and walked out the door leaving the overweight man slumbering peacefully in the bed. He didn’t notice a thing.




Chapter 2






Studio lights flooded the night sky gradually drowning it of its mystique. Every television station within a hundred mile radius was there to get a glimpse, and reporters feverishly typed notes into their smart phones while the more seasoned journalists scribbled in their tiny notebooks with pencils that looked better suited for capturing golf scores than the news story of the year. Paparazzi collided into each other like waves against sea rocks, fighting to get the perfect shot. One good photo could change their lives. If executed correctly some lucky bastard could trade in the long frigid nights spent sleeping outside a celebrity’s home, surviving on Corn nut rations, determination and Coca-Cola, for a beach chair, white sand, fresh oysters, and all of the Pina’ Coladas he could consume.

Onlookers held signs demanding his freedom and radios blasted his latest hit from almost every car as hordes of tweens bobbed their hands to the gumbo of tunes that flowed through the thick evening air like a swarm of killer bees.


I was born with the burden on me  a scarlet letter/
Tattooed on my chest homie just call me Hester.

Papa never thought I'd be shit boy was he wrong though/

A hundred thousand on three mortgages half a man on a car note.


It's true my money's long though and I'm the head honcho/

But are the dreams really worth it if the nightmares can't calm storms?

And I've been having visions lately/

Police out here just killin' babies/

And I done made a million off of swagger rap and women hatin' !

Trap music, gat music, that music is it real or fake?

I've invested less in these black kids than I ever did in real estate…..






As Keno stepped down from the armored car that pulled up outside Jackson State Prison, he could barely process anything.  The thumping pulse in his ears muted the roar of the crowd, the music, and the camera flashes. In his peripheral, he noticed a gaggle of young girls sobbing at the sight of his gaunt frame draped in the county issued orange jumpsuit.   These past few months had been a roller coaster ride and he could tell by the salivating pack of press goons waiting outside of each court hearing, that he was running out of track.  Tonight, the media vultures had come to pick his bones clean.


Oh how the mighty had fallen. Just one year ago, Keno had been on top of the world. He was the main artist for One By One Records, the greatest Hip-Hop label in history. Affectionately known as “IXI” (eye-ex-eye) Records, the label had been responsible for helping to transform the genre from obscure street music, to a multi-billion dollar global industry. The decline in album sales due to the popularity of digital music streaming and piracy, hurt all record labels. However, IXI, with its global footprint and huge overhead, had been hurt more than most. It was too big to swiftly adapt to changing times so it hemorrhaged money faster than executives could lay off staff and cut additional costs.  The label was at the brink of bankruptcy when Keno, exploded on the scene, gained global popularity, and breathed new life into the dying company. As a result, Keno was a rich man with a multiple homes, garages full of cars, a stable of women, and all of the drugs he could consume.


His world came crashing down when IXI and it’s parent company Strigiform found themselves embroiled in a scandal that revealed Keno and other artists’ record sales had been fabricated and the entire music operation was actually a large scale drug trafficking and money laundering operation. It was the crime of the decade and the story of the century.  The only thing America loved more than a success story was watching a giant fall, but this story had even more intrigue.  Horace Otto, the once powerful CEO of IXI and presumed mastermind of the scheme had been killed in a violent shootout in the old United Artists theater in downtown Detroit. Based on the barrage of bullets that had turned the decaying walls to Swiss cheese and the hot shell casings that littered the dusty floors, the police assumed it was a large drug deal gone bad. In reality, they had little to go on. When they arrived on the scene, Otto and his bodyguard lay dead and Keno was found unconscious in the orchestra pit with an unregistered Glock 9 in his waistband. Forensics came back on the gun and it was evident that Keno hadn’t fired a shot in the gunfight, but the weapons charge was a blatant parole violation that was enough to land Keno in jail to think about his transgressions.

With each step, his leg shackles played a death march cadence as the prison guards led him to the mouth of the prison like a sacrifice. He flexed his biceps against their vice-like grips in silent protest as they stared straight ahead, their eyes hidden by dark Cartier shades. He struggled to breathe as the gravity of his situation hit him in another wave.


“Keep it together, man,” he said to himself. “Only a few more steps and you’ll be out of the spotlight and you can faint if you need to. But right now you have to be strong.”


He silently scolded his knees for shaking so much but thankfully the oversized jumpsuit concealed his visible fear.  And who wouldn’t be afraid? Not only was he headed to a maximum-security prison, which housed some of the worst criminals in American history; he was going alone, and for a long time.  He looked back at the world that had accepted him with open arms, gave him the authority to live as he pleased, and treated him like a king as long as he had the money and the muscle to back it up.  His eyes welled with tears as he noticed the sun slowly waking on the horizon painting purple and orange across the sky like God’s watercolors. This was going to be the last sunrise he’d see in the foreseeable future.  As he began to lower his head to hide his tears from the streaming cameras, he noticed a man staring at him from the distance. He was amongst the crowd but not of the crowd. He lowered his shades and made eye contact with Keno as if saying “I see you.” The jerking from the guards brought Keno out of the trance and back to reality as they forced his final steps into his new home.


Before the doors to the facility closed, Keno was rushed past central booking and into an empty room, simply furnished with a steel chair and a florescent light that buzzed incessantly. The two guards shoved him into the seat with so much force that he thought he’d surely sprained his tailbone.  The room was practically sterile with two-way mirrors that had no trace of dust or a fingerprint. The gray walls complimented the army green polished cement floor.  The Prisoner peered into the mirror trying to determine who was behind that glass.   Just as he began to speculate, a tall slender Asian man wearing a white lab coat and muted blue hospital issued scrubs walked through the door.


“Good evening Mr. Harris” the doctor said flatly, “How are you feeling?” his tone revealed that this was a routine greeting; just empty words in an empty room. It was as if each phrase leaped from his mouth, plunged into the meticulously kept concrete, and met their death right next to the doctor’s impeccably kept loafers.  


“I’m cool Doc,” the prisoner managed to push out in a low tone.   


“Excellent Mr. Harris, you remain that way and you’ll be just fine” the doctor said as he slowly circled the steel chair. “My name is Dr. Li, and I’m here to make sure that your transition is without error,” the sound of his heels echoing against the floor began to slow,  as he continued to circle, slightly touching the Prisoner on his shoulders every few steps. “Your job is to follow all directions and don’t ask any questions. They will not be answered and it will only make things harder on you,” the doctor paused in front of the Prisoner. “Now ,if you disobey these rules I’m going to assume that you enjoy hard things,” he said inching closer to the Prisoner’s face and staring coldly into his eyes. “Now you’re going to feel a slight prick followed by sudden discomfort, and finally you will be off to Never Never Land.”


“What do you…!!” Keno started to say as he felt a sting in the back of his neck followed by a nauseating feeling in his stomach.  He swallowed hard as the dizziness overcame him. After 30 seconds that seemed to last an eternity, his body started to relax. He shook his head groggily trying to wake himself from this terrible dream. Soon he’d awake and everything would be back to normal.

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